CHENNAI: Seven Bangladeshi girls, aged between 15 and 32, who were rescued from several brothels in Chennai and Kanchipuram, are finally being repatriated to their families in Bangladesh, with the help of Dhaka based NGO — Light House, which acted as a liaison with the girls’ families, after being confined to a vigilance home attached to the Madras Christian Council of Social Service for several months.
“They had all hoped that they would be sent back home within three months of coming here,” explained Isabel Richardson, Executive Secretary of Madras Christian Council of Social Service, the home trusted with their care, “But that never happened. Getting travel permits for these girls proved to be a near impossible task,” she sighed.
The seven girls had been sold into prostitution by members of their own families — a trend that has remained a global human trafficking menace. Smuggled into the country by road, via Kolkata, they ended up in several brothels. “Over the last year, we have come here (to the home) after the police rescued us. We like it here a lot but we also want to get back to our land,” explained Kulsum, one of the girls, whose name has been changed.
When they applied for travel permits — the equivalent of a passport for human- trafficking victims — the process was stalled because of a lack of documentation.
“Minister Maneka Gandhi visited our home in May and saw these girls, she instructed the Home Ministry to extend help,” said Isabel.
Even with this instruction from Maneka Gandhi, when they applied for travel permits to go back to their country the process was stalled because of a lack of documentation.
With the help of sponsors who donated money for their tickets, their flight to Dhaka was booked for last Tuesday. With their bags filled with gifts for their kin and alight with joy they were, however, turned away by the Foreigner Regional Registration Office who denied them permission to leave the country.
“They were very firm at immigration. They said without an ‘exit permit’ and the Maldivian Airlines left without the seven girls,” Isabel said.
The home authorities then approached the Secretariat’s Public Foreigner section.
“For the first time in several months, we were met by someone who knew about these girls and immediately agreed to help. They asked the CB-CID to sign off on their ‘Leave India’ permits and made us believe that these girls would go home again,” she smiled.
Scheduled to fly out on Saturday, the seven girls were apprehensive of being turned back again. This time, though, the CB-CID sent a policeman to accompany them to ensure they get through immigration.
“I hope that they never come back like this,” Isabel says, concern writ large on her face.